The Kingdom of God Is Not Meat and Drink Meaning and Meditation

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)

In Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, there were a number of questions related to how the burgeoning Christian churches were to respond to cultural practices around them. One chief concern was about food that had been sacrificed to idols: was it immoral or idolatrous to eat such meat, or were believers free to do so without guilt or shame? Paul answered this and other questions directly, while also addressing the deeper spiritual implications.

#1 Precedent for Caution

Many Christians (as they began to be called during Paul’s ministry) were Jews who acknowledged Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah (Acts 2:36). These Jews were previously bound by the Law of Moses, which contained hundreds of precepts, statutes, and rules that all devout Jews were expected to follow in order to maintain ritual holiness.

One section of these laws covered which animals should and should not be eaten (Leviticus 11). In the Law as God revealed it to Moses, God had made a distinction between “clean” and “unclean” animals, indicating that some would defile a person’s holiness before God and prevent them from receiving the benefits of God’s blessings.

These ceremonially clean animals could be used in some cases for sacrifice to God. Other pagan religions outside of Judaism and Christianity practiced similar blood offerings, but rather than set aside the offerings for the priests (Leviticus 1-7), the Gentiles would take the meat they had just offered to their gods or idols and consume it, or perhaps sell it in the market. This caused concerns among the new believers about bringing sin upon themselves if they ate such meat.

#2 Permissions and Constraints

Since Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, God had considered the demands of the Law completely fulfilled (Matthew 5:17), and the required payment and atonement for sin accounted for (Ephesians 1:7).

This included many of the stipulations put upon the Jewish people. While Jesus taught that the Law was still valid by our actions and the motivations of our hearts (Matthew 5:17-48), the conditions about certain foods being clean or unclean were removed. Jesus implied this in His teachings (Mark 7:19), and Peter had a vision where God told him to consume animals that were otherwise considered unclean (Acts 10:9-16), although the deeper meaning of that passage pointed to God’s call to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.

In fact, when the apostles discussed what was required for the Gentiles to receive saving faith from God and the power of the Holy Spirit, they placed very few rules on believers other than belief in the sacrifice of Jesus (Acts 16:22-29). It is important to note, however, that they did specifically condemn eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols (Acts 16:29).

#3 Prevention of Conflict

Much of Paul’s preaching centered not around following a rigid set of regulations, but rather obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit, as well as consideration for our fellow believers. This verse in Romans 14 is part of a larger teaching where he warns the reader against passing judgment on those who may have a “weaker conscience” (Romans 14:1-4).

The intent behind Paul’s words is that it can be very easy to argue about the little things but forsake the greater duties of love and compassion. We should certainly hold the church accountable for obvious sin in our lives, but we should stop short when our personal beliefs could cause us to become prideful in our own perceived self-righteousness or when such condemnation would force someone to go against what God has laid on their hearts (Romans 14:13).

#4 Protection of Community

Paul himself believed that all foods were clean (Romans 14:14), but acknowledged that there were some who did not believe as he did. In such cases, he would choose not to eat out of respect for their beliefs and their sensitivity to avoiding sin (1 Corinthians 10:27-28).

He does not pass judgment on those who have more stringent beliefs or preferences, but also makes it clear that he is not bound by those same conditions (1 Corinthians 10:29). His only motivation for eating or not eating is the encouragement and building up of the body of Christ. If we were to offend someone by our actions, we are not acting out of love (Romans 14:15, 19) – this is an extension of Paul’s commitment to finding common ground with others in as many ways as possible in order to be an effective witness for the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). His only motivation in eating or abstaining is to promote a unified church (Romans 14:19).


Whatever we do in this life, we do to serve Christ (Matthew 25:40). In this way, simple meat and drink becomes more than a meal: it becomes an opportunity to show the love and righteousness of God with our fellow believers. When we are all fully yielded to God’s will, we should always choose to pursue peace through compassion instead of fostering division through judgment. In this way, we can better serve Christ, love others, and attract them with the fullness of the Gospel (Romans 14:15-19).

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.